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Family Communication: Open Conversations More Important than Rules

Sometimes I wish my family talked more honestly and directly with each other. I look back on times when an open conversation would have helped so much.

No is the Final Answer

When I was in the ninth grade, I received my first invitation to a house party. I was really excited. My best friend, Annie, said I could borrow her sky-blue wrap dress.

But when I showed the invite to my Mom, she shook her head. “No, you’re too young for a house party,” she said.

I protested and begged, but she kept saying things like: “But you’re so innocent. You don’t understand boys’ wants. When you’re older, I’ll allow you to go.”

Misunderstanding the Message

I thought she was trying to say I was stupid or that she didn’t trust my judgment. I was livid with her and I snuck out to the party nonetheless, leaving behind a note. But it made me feel really guilty. Annie suggested I try some gin, so I had some, and it made me dizzy. She danced but I sat on a couch. My head was spinning.

There was an older boy who came and sat next to me and kept talking to me all night, which felt nice because it made me feel less lonely and less guilty about disobeying Mom.

But suddenly he kissed me. I didn’t really like him, and I was overwhelmed. I said I had to use the bathroom and rushed out, where I sat in the grass with the dog, waiting to go home. Later, when Annie’s dad was driving me home, I saw an ambulance come down our street. My first thought was, “Oh my God, I hope my parents are okay.”

I couldn’t bring myself to apologize to Mom, who was really upset with me and wouldn’t talk to me. I wanted to have an honest and open conversation with her and to confide in her about how the boy had kissed me, but I was afraid she’d just say, “I told you!”

As I grew up and visited my friends’ families, I saw how casually my friends talked with their parents about everything, including boys, alcohol, weed, or crushes, like they were “normal” things, in a way my family never did.

If Only We Had Talked

I wished my family was more open about talking about different things, so that I could feel safe talking about them rather than hiding my feelings or feeling bad or guilty about them, which might have helped me overcome negative experiences faster.

Looking for more communication thoughts?

I believe children need an open channel of communication, not just restrictions or rules designed to protect them. A better protection is providing kids the space to make mistakes and to talk about their experiences, so they can learn and their parents can gently guide them.

Alicia Summers is a contributor to Your Teen.

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